Live Review: Little Comets with the Dig at the Hamilton, Washington DC – 13th August 2013

By on Thursday, 15th August 2013 at 2:00 pm

When you’ve waited nearly 4 years to see a beloved band play, it becomes an event. When it was revealed to me earlier this summer that Newcastle’s Little Comets had signed to Nashville label Dualtone Records and they were coming over for their first headline U.S. headline tour, making a stop in DC, well, putting it mildly, I was beside myself. I wrote this In the Post article on the band’s ‘Adultery’ single in October 2009. That seems like ages ago and to be fair, it really is, as back in those days, I was still pretty new to the music writing business. Little (no pun intended) did I know that on this night, I would be pleasantly surprised by my city’s music brethren.

I’m one of those people that believes in fate and I just got the feeling very early on, even before I’d met them on this night, that they were good people. They have a very good knack on picking good support bands to tour with, and just this year, it feels like a bit more than coincidence they’ve been on tours with or are due to go on tour with bands that are all friends of mine. They toured the UK in April with Sheffield’s Crookes in April, and later this month, they’re doing an intimate (snort) acoustic gig sponsored by Durex in Manchester supported by Bromley’s Van Susans. On Tuesday night, the opening band were New Yorkers the Dig, who I’ve known since they came to DC in February 2010 to support Editors. They would be supporting Little Comets in DC and on the next night at Philadelphia’s North Star Bar.

The Dig Washington Aug 2013 2

How far the Dig have come and how they’ve evolved. Now with two albums (2010’s ‘Electric Toys’ and 2012’s ‘Midnight Flowers’) and an EP ‘Tired Hearts’, I feel like they’re truly coming into their own as the American band poised to hit the big time. (They just supported the Lumineers 3 weeks ago at Merriweather Post Pavilion. You do the math, folks.) While the crowd at the Hamilton generally kept a respectful distance from the band, there was one woman wearing a leopard print bra, holding up a beer can and who appeared to be quite inebriated despite the early starting time of 7:30 PM. She kept yelling and squealing all through their set, including shouting happy birthday at belated birthday boy and bassist Emile Mosseri.

The Dig Washington Aug 2013 1

Besides this one distracting fan, there were clearly other Dig fans from way back who preferred to be seated; they made their presence known by shouting for requests for the band to play songs from ‘Electric Toys’ that sadly went unheeded. Instead, the band focused on songs from the 2012 release, including my personal favourite ‘I Already Forgot Everything You Said’ with its memorably thumping bass line, ‘Animal Screams’ and the dreamy album opener ‘Red Rose in the Cold Winter Ground’. The Dig are a fun band to watch; alternating lead singers Mosseri and David Baldwin have different vocal styles but uniquely compelling voices, and I find myself getting drawn in by their rhythms and my body just naturally goes with them. If you haven’t heard of them yet, have a listen to their music, I’ll bet you they’ll be touring in the UK in short order.

And then for the main event starting at the very early headlining set time of 8:30 PM came Little Comets. Even before they got onstage, there was one part to their stage setup that had me baffled. Hanging from what appeared to be a clothesline that traversed the length of the stage were, stage right to left a shaker gourd, a tambourine shaped like a moon and some kind of metal contraption. These were later employed by the band in a Clock Opera ‘A Piece of String’-kind of fashion at specific times throughout the set. I can’t really explain it any better than that but just imagine a band onstage playing guitars but then manically hitting these things hanging from a clothesline and you can sort of imagine the mental scene.

Little Comets Washington 2

The band began their set with a taster of ‘Bridge Burn’, one of the special tracks added to the American version of Little Comets’ second album ‘Life is Elsewhere’ that will be available to us stateside next week. I think this song is brilliant, so it was with some disappointment that the song was truncated to segue quickly yet seamlessly into ‘W-O-E’, the band’s current single in Britain. When trying to explain to newcomers to Little Comets what they’re about, this is as good an example as any: lyrically erudite words by singer Rob Coles are sung in an distinctive way, backed up by brother and guitarist Mickey and bassist Matt Hall, all accompanied by unique and unpredictable song structures.

Since they’re basically touring this new American release, I was under the assumption that songs from ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets’, their debut album that went through great birthing pains (thanks a lot, Columbia) wouldn’t even be touched. However, the band next launched into ‘Isles’, with its spelling out of “B-R-I-T-I-S-H British Isles!” chorus. (They skipped the bridge naming so many great British cities, which was a shame.) Afterwards, Rob Coles commented with amusement, “it’s a little bizarre when people know the words…”, referring to the multitudes of fans including myself who were singing along to his every word. To be honest, I was surprised too; the first album was never released here, so I guess those kids got it off iTunes? (Let’s hope…) Song after song was met by admittedly strange whoops of glee from punters, including some that Coles himself complimented as sounding remarkably like that of cats meowing. Yeah, I know….but these fans were doing this out of love for the band and their music, so I’m not going to judge. To each his own!

Little Comets Washington 3

Naturally, the rhythmically jaunty singles of “girls with three syllable names” – ‘Joanna’ and ‘Jennifer’ – went down a treat, as did other upbeat numbers ‘Dancing Song’ and ‘A Little Opus’. The inclusion of ‘One Night in October’ was particularly poignant, as Coles explained it was the first song they’d written in a bedroom back home in the North East and what an amazing thing it was, being able to play this song in a place they never imagined they would ever get to like Washington DC. It reminded me of something that my mother once said to me when I was very young and a massive Beatles fan. I asked her, “why are the Beatles so good?” Her response: “British bands are hungrier. And they have so much more to prove. If they want to come to the United States, they have to work that much harder and be the best.”

At the time and that age, I couldn’t really relate to what she said, but now I’ve come to know this first hand from the bands I now have the pleasure to call friends. It is truth. I’d add to her thoughts that nearly every single band I’ve met from the UK has a huge amount of heart and want so much in those hearts to make their passion for music their lives. Even though the guys of Little Comets have now settled down with partners and have children of their own, they remain uncompromising in their approach to making the kind of music they want to. And to watch them from their humble beginnings to where they are now, living out their dream out here in America, is something very special indeed. Thank you Little Comets, I feel privileged to have been part of your journey.

Stay tuned here for my post-gig interview with Rob and Matt, coming soon on TGTF.

After the cut: Little Comets’ set list.
Little Comets Washington 1

Little Comets Set List:
Bridge Burn (clip)
A Little Opus
Violence Out Tonight
Waiting in the Shadows in the Dead of Night
Tense / Empty
One Night in October
Western Boy
Woman Woman
Dancing Song
In Blue Music We Trust

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6 Responses

2:02 pm
15th August 2013

New post: Live Review: Little Comets with the Dig at the Hamilton, Washington DC – 13th August 2013:

2:15 pm
15th August 2013

Live Review: Little Comets @littlecomets with the Dig @thedigisup at the Hamilton @thehamiltondc – 13th August 2013:

2:22 pm
15th August 2013

RT @tgtf: Live Review: Little Comets @littlecomets with the Dig @thedigisup at the Hamilton @thehamiltondc – 13th August 2013:…

3:45 pm
15th August 2013

Live Review: Little Comets with the Dig at the Hamilton, Washington DC – 13th August 2013 via @tgtf

[…] White House grounds, seemed like a strange venue choice for Little Comets‘ debut appearance in Washington DC last week. However, it turned out to be a fortuitous stroke of luck, as you will hear in my […]

[…] beats the usual cramped and dingy places us Washington writers are used to. Last summer when they came and did a show for us there, Little Comets commented to me that the place reminded them of Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, but […]

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